Billie Eilish recorded her debut album ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ in a bedroom, and now the 18-year-old trendsetter is the youngest person and first female artist to win four major category Grammy Awards in the same year: Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist.
Known for being unapologetically herself, Eilish showed up to the Grammys in flashy sneakers and custom-made Gucci: baggy shirt, neon green turtleneck and wide-legged trousers included. She and producer-brother Finneas swept the awards on January 27, walking away with a handful of shiny gramophones in their arms. But Eilish isn’t the only young person making a mark in today’s music scene. Here are nine artists under 21 to keep on your radar.
1. Koffee — 19
The hype over Billie Eilish’s big wins may have overshadowed another massive achievement: Jamaica’s Koffee became the youngest solo act — and only female in history — to win a Grammy for Best Reggae Album. The 19-year-old patois-singing talent released her 5-track EP ‘Rapture’ in March, and despite its short 15-minute runtime, the danceable album is one of the year’s most energising and addictive releases. Next time you need a hit of caffeine, try listening to Koffee instead.
2. Willow Smith — 19
Willow Smith has come a long way from debut single ‘Whip My Hair’ — that might be because she released it an entire decade ago. On her third and latest album ‘Willow’ (2019), she is boldly experimental and wise beyond her years, using her voice as a stirring instrument — paired with trippy synth elements — to transport listeners into the forest drizzle of her emotions.
3. Roddy Ricch — 21
Remember how hard Justin Bieber campaigned to get his new single to the top of the charts? Meet the man who stopped it from happening. While Bieber’s ‘Yummy’ sat comfortably at No 2, Roddy Ricch flew to No 1 with ‘The Box’, which became the first new song to top the Billboard Hot 100 this decade. The song is on his debut album ‘Excuse Me for Being Antisocial’. Ricch also featured on Nipsey Hussle’s track ‘Racks in the Middle’, which won the Grammy for Best Rap Performance.
4. Lil Nas X — 20
The success of Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ speaks for itself. The song — released independently — experienced a meteoric rise in popularity, which led to major label Columbia Records re-releasing it. It went to No 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and held the spot for a whopping nineteen weeks, meaning that Nas X holds the record for longest run in the chart’s 62-year history. The rapper won two Grammy Awards (out of six nominations) for Best Music Video and Best Duo/Group Performance.
5. YoungBoy Never Broke Again — 20
YoungBoy isn’t new to the scene, but he gained momentum in 2019. The 20-year-old rapper released his 14th mixtape ‘AI YoungBoy 2’, which became his first No 1 in America. His highest-charting single to date is with the late rapper Juice WRLD, ‘Bandit’, which boasts more than 200 million streams on Spotify. YoungBoy’s debut album ‘Until Death Call My Name’ (2018) featured big name artists Future, Birdman, Lil Uzi Vert and Offset.
6. Lunay — 19
As Latin pop and reggaeton continue to capture the attention of global audiences, Puerto Rican singer Lunay offers us his 2019 debut album ‘Epico’. The 14-track record includes his highest-charting single (No 1 in Spain; No 66 in America) to date ‘Soltera — Remix’ with Puerto Rican rappers Daddy Yankee and Bad Bunny. Lunay has discussed how his faith keeps him in check when it comes to his lyrics.
7. Lil Tecca — 17
At only 17, Lil Tecca already has a Top 10 hit to his name — the rapper’s breakout single ‘Ransom’ has more than half a billion streams on Spotify. Citing everyone from Michael Jackson and Coldplay to Lil Wayne and Chief Keef as inspirations, Tecca dropped his first mixtape ‘We Love You Tecca’ last year and debuted at No 4. His debut studio album Virgo World is set to drop early this year under Republic Records.
8. NLE Choppa — 17
NLE Choppa’s single ‘Shotta Flow’ went platinum in 2019. While he released his debut EP Cottonwood in December, he is already ready to drop his debut studio album ‘Top Shotta’, which was tentatively set to release in January 2020. (Choppa is a big fan of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, who died unexpectedly aged 41 on Sunday, even mentioning him on his breakout hit.)
9. Ruel — 17
English-born Australian singer Ruel is finding his voice, but if his song came up on shuffle, you’d be forgiven for wondering if it’s a new Shawn Mendes or Justin Bieber track. Ruel, who last year opened for Mendes at a couple of shows and released his second EP ‘Free Time’, has all the right pop star ingredients — emotive voice, shaggy hair and catchy production — so we’re excited for him to cook up something uniquely his own.